Christianity

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

Overview of the Christian faith

All of the denominations, listed on our denominations page and chart, emerged from a root form of Christianity. The earliest Christian church was established by Jesus Christ and richly developed by His disciples and especially the 12 Apostles and the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Select the blue arrows at the right of the following box for a quick overview of Christianity and its history.

The Name "Christianity"
Christianity was originally perceived by the Romans and the Greeks as a Jewish sect and its members were referred to as "Followers of The Way". A term which was based primarily on the Apostles' preaching of Jesus as "THE Way", a phrase that shows up as Jesus' own words in the Gospel of John 14:6 "I AM the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me."

In the book of Acts, the Bible reports that these "Followers" were called "Christians" for the first time in Antioch. It was a derisive term which meant "little Christs". The name given in derision was a perfect fit for what true Christianity represented: being a smaller version i.e. representative or imitator of Christ, so the name was a hit among Christians and it stuck.
From Jewish Sect to World Religion
Originally considered a “Jewish” Sect by nearly everyone (except Christians), Christianity grew in size, worldwide presence, and propogated a widely differing and independent doctrine from the Jewish faith of its roots.

Mostly due to declarations of disassociation proclaimed by Jewish leaders to the Roman authorities at the time, Rome would oblige the leaders of Judaism which it considered a legitimate religion and would remove all "legal protection" of these Christ-ians who had been allowed (for the most part) in the Roman empire under the banner of a "Jewish Sect" . Within less than a century, the fledgling Christian faith ceased to be considered a Jewish sect soon emerged as a world religion in its own right.
Definition of "Church"
For the most part, the church structure as it exists today:
  1. A dedicated building for the purpose of "church service"
  2. Centralised authority structure consisting of a seminary-trained leader and/or hierarchy
  3. All seats facing toward a stage with performing groups and speakers
  4. Rigid scheduling and service times (see below for a breakdown of what this looks like in a modern church service)
Owes itself mostly to the influence of Constantine who incorporated many practices of other pagan faiths within the Roman Empire into the Christian faith which he legalised in 313 AD with the Edict of Milan.
  • Prior to Constantine the church met in homes, was largely decentralised, and enjoyed small interactive groups with balanced prayer, reading of Scripture (various scrolls and not the Bible as it exists today) and the singing of hymns
  • Contrary to popular belief, Christians hold that the "true" church is not a building, nor does it necessarily pertain to a specific group of attendees, but is comprised of those who have been "baptised into Christ" by placing their faith in the forgiveness of sins by way of the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
What the Church Service has Become:
A modern-day Christian church service is usually a 1 hour service three times a week and consists of:
  • 5 minutes of chatting
  • 3 minutes of prayer
  • 3 minute song/hymn
  • 10 minutes of "church announcements"
  • 3 minute song/hymn
  • 5 minutes of Bible reading
  • 3 minute song/hymn
  • 21 minute sermons
  • 3 minute song/hymn
  • 3 minutes of prayer.
This is far removed from the original intention of church meetings where belivers met to encourage one another in the faith (impossible in the above format) and Christian leaders used meetings as an opportunity to "equip the Saints" and train us to "handle the Word of God accurately" so that we can "Give a reason for the hope that lies within us". This is impossible with a 3 minute Bible reading and a 21 minute sermon on "self improvement".
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Essential Beliefs of Christianity

From the writings of the Apostles, to the times of the various councils to this very day, there is an unbroken line of correct doctrine that can be demonstrated by the preserved writings of that day. Often times, cultists will claim that “precious truths” were removed by “wicked priests” or something along those lines.

However, when pressed to show any sort of evidence of a broken line of teaching or an exact (or approximate!) time period when the “wicked priests” carried out such a removal of these bizarre new beliefs, the Christian is met with deafening silence. There isn’t an answer from the cults because the historical and archaeological record supports the orthodox Christian belief that what was taught 2000 years ago and which is still being taught today. So with that being said, what exactly do authentic, historic, Biblically-based Christians believe? For the early centuries, there was a commonly-held set of beliefs pertaining to the following:

The Nature of God

Theologians would later refer to this as “Theology Proper”

There is One God

Isa 44:8; Deut 6:4; 1Tim 2:5 ‘One God, One Mediator...

  1. The Trinity: Isa 48:16; Math 28:19; 2Cor 13:14;
    • The exact word ‘Trinity’ is not in the bible, but the concept is clearly taught (c.f. the exact word ‘bible’ is not in the Bible but the concept is taught)
  2. Father as One Lord - Eph 4:5 (v4-church); I Cor 8:6; Father – Rom 1:7 Creator of all – Zec 12:1
  3. Son as One Lord Jn 11:32
  4. Spirit as One Lord 2Cor 3:17; 1Tim 6:15
    • Holy Spirit – 2Sam 23:2-3; Ps 95:7-11 w/ Heb 3:7-19 ; Isa 6:8-10 w/Acts 28:25-27
    • Cannot be “lied to”
    • Is referred to as “He” throughout bible

The person of Jesus Christ

Theologians would later refer to as "Christology"

  1. Deity of Jesus – Col 1:15, 2:9 ; Phil 2:6-8 ; Zec 12:10; Isa 9:6; Heb 1:6-8
  2. Virgin Birth – Isa 9:6 which is an essential doctrine for Jesus sinless birth, life and spotless sacrifice.
  3. Resurrection – Jesus was raised from the dead and this is the cornerstone of the Christian faith; “if Christ be not raised, you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
  4. I've recorded a series of podcasts which go into greater detail about the person of Jesus Christ which can be accessed by the clicking the title in this section.

Salvation of Mankind

Salvation of mankind This occurs by way of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Theologians would later refer to this doctrine/theology as "Soteriology"

The Sin Condition of All Mankind

Theologians would later refer to this doctrine as Hamartiology

  1. It is the "bad news" which makes the Gospel such "good news"
  2. Adamic sin in all men Rom 3:23; Isa 53:6

Christ’s Atoning Death

Jn 19:30 “It is finished” all sufficient; Eph 2:8,9

  1. He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might be become the righteousness of God in Christ. - 2 Cor 5:21
  2. The lamb who takes away the sins of the world - John 1:29
  3. He is the propitiation of our sins - Romans 3:25
  4. One Faith: One Batism Into Christ – Eph 4:4, 5
    • “One body...One Lord, one faith...” Worldwide unity of Born Again believers across denominational, geo-political boundaries.
    • Not a pluralist belief - i.e. "one of many faiths" - John 14:6
    • Not a universalist belief - i.e. all men and women go to heaven no matter who or what they believe "Enter by the narrow gate"
    • Not an ecumenical belief - i.e. unity at the expense of truth, togetherness superseding sound doctrine "I do not come to bring unity but rather a sword"

Click the blue arrow at the right of the box below to see the attributes of God according to the Biblical-historical Christian faith.

He is Spirit
John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth
He is Triune in Nature
He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons co-equal within one Godhead (not three gods as in Mormonism or three "phases" or "modes" as in Oneness Pentecostalism or in the United Pentecostal Church)
The Father is God but He is neither The Son nor The Holy Spirit. The Son is God but is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God but i neither the Father nor the Son.
He is Omniscient – All knowing
Father – Isa 44:7-8 “Did I not proclaim it? foretell it long ago?”
Son - Jn 2:24 ; I Cor 1:24 ; Col 2:3
Spirit - Psa 139:1-18 You know all things; my days before there was yet one of them Ezek 11:5 ; I Cor 2:10
He is Omnipresent – Present everywhere at once
Father – Jer 23:24 ; I Kgs 8:27
Son - Math 28:20 (v18 omnipotent)
Spirit - Psa 139:1-18 “If I descend to the depths THOU”7
He is Omnipotent – All powerful
Omnipotent = able to accomplish all things that can be accomplished w/power
Father - Job 42:2 “No purpose of yours can be withheld from You” Jer 32:17
Son – Math 28:18; I Cor 1:24 ; Col 1:16-18
Spirit - Luke 1:35-37

Common question around omnipotence: Can God make a rock so big even He can’t move it? answer God can do everything that power can do, power cannot accomplish the logically/mathmatically impossible How much power is required to make 2+2=6?
He is Fully Love (I Jn 4:8)
God is all-loving while at the same time being both fully righteous and fully just - Isa 45:21; Zeph 3:5; Acts 3:14

Some can embrace a god thats one or the other. While in truth, He is both simultaneously

Cults ask, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” RESPONSE: “How can a righteous/just God send anyone to heaven?” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”; ‘Each one has gone astray’ RESPONSE: Their (the self-condemned) understanding of God’s character is warped. He honors man’s free will choice to be separate from Him as he TRULY is! The Bible speaks of this sort of person: Rom 1:28 “They did not think it worthwhile to retain the true knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind...”
He is Fully Just
God hates all that is wrong and loves what is right. He upholds the cause of truth and despises the lie - He is The One and Only Just Judge. He cannot tolerate evil and iniquity (sinful behaviour).
“For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.” — Isaiah 61:8, ESV
He is Eternal:
Isa 41:4; Rev 1:8 Alpha and the Omega; Deut 33:27 Without beginning or end: Mic 5:2 From everlasting; Heb 9:14 Eternal Spirit ITim 1:17; Gen 21:33; Psa 93:2
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Creeds & Councils of Christianity

This set of beliefs were all founded upon and located in the inspired word of God – the Scriptures. They were as-yet uncodified into a standalone written “creed” or “confession” aside from Scripture but were passed down from the Apostles to the early church patriarchs either by word or by written epistle. After a number of heresies arose, the early Christian church decided to gather together at specific councils to officially codify the already-established Christian doctrine passed on from the 12 Apostles. I’ve included a few words about the the Creeds that were assembled as a result of a couple of the major councils:

The Nicene Creed, The Apostles Creed

    1. The creeds are a codification of belief not the ‘invention’ of it as many cults claim
      1. Greeks (Antioch) Had trouble with Christ’s humanity i.e born of a virgin and resurrected in the flesh. (Which is what may have led to the Gnostic heresy)
      2. Semitc origins (Alexandria) Had trouble with Christ’s Deity i.e. One in being with The Father and God from God without beginning (to address the Arian heresy)
    2. The codifcation was arrived at over the course of 3-4 centuries9
      1. Apostle’s Creed (Roman Creed) 2nd century against gnosticism affirmed Christ’s humanity to the Greeks
      2. Council of Nicaea 325 A. D. Called and Presided over by Constantine. Defended Christ’s Deity against Arian heresy. The Nicene Creed emerged as a result of this council
    3. Council of Constantinople – 381 A.D. called to affirm the singular person of Christ in both Deity and Humanity (Theanthropos)

Christian Denominations

The word ‘church’ comes from ekklesia which means ‘called out ones’. The genuine scriptural Christian church is comprised of sincerely called out believers and followers of Christ Jesus who have turned from their life of sin to a life in Christ. These called out ones are collectively known as the church, the scriptural/biblical church or as the ‘invisible church. It is called invisible because it cannot be quickly and easily identified by human means but is known by God and spiritually discerned by believers. Being a genuine “called out one” or member of the invisible church has nothing to do with denominations or schisms or creeds or councils but rather on one’s genuine conversion to Christ through repentance and faith.

That being said, there is also a “visible” Christian church which the world looks at externally thereby defining the Christian church by what they see or record in a census of the population. This ‘visible church’ is primarily comprised of seven major families of denominations which are: 

  1. Oriental Orthodox
  2. Roman Catholic (part of the visible church but apostate from the Biblical church)
  3. Eastern Orthodox
  4. Pre-reformer churches
  5. German Lutheran
  6. Swiss Reformed
  7. Anglican denominations.

Authoritative Writings of the Christian faith

The Bible

Writing started 1450 B.C. with Moses was completed 95 A.D. with the Apostle John

Old Testament

Jewish canon: The Law, The Prophets and the The Writings in Jerome's order:

  1. Penteteuch (the Law)
  2. Historical Writings
  3. Poetic Books
  4. Major Prophets
  5. Minor Prophets

New Testament

A fulfillment of the Old Testament which was incomplete:

  1. Four Gospels (Historical): Matthew Mark Luke John and Acts of the Apostles
  2. Pauline Epistles: General and Pastoral
  3. General Epistles: Hebrews, James, I II Peter, Jude, I II III John
  4. Prophetic: The Revelation of The Christ

Bible and Qu'ran compare and contrast

Are the two books the same? Is the Bible just a man-inspired man-written work like the Qu'ran? Is the Qu'ran a God-inspired God-breathed book like the Bible? Do they both say the same things? The following compare and contrast will shed some light on these questions:

Bible

Qu'ran

The God of the Bible tells His people to differentiate Him from false gods by their inability to prophesy the future and His unique ability to prophesy the future perfectly. – Isaiah 41:22-24

No prophecies of any kind about the future are given in the Qu’ran

Monotheistic, Trinitarian, as referenced in Isa 43:10; 44:6-8; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14

Monotheistic as referenced in Surah 5:73; 112:1-4

Denies the Trinity in Surah 5:73

Jesus is God incarnate – Colossians 2:9

Denies that Jesus is God and claims He was only a “messenger” – Surah 5:17, 75-76

Jesus was crucified on a cross – 1 Peter 2:24

Claims Jesus was not crucified at all – Surah 4:157

Jesus rose from the dead – John 2:19-20

Claims that Jesus died a normal death (after 120 years), was taken up to Allah then simply watched over his followers from heaven. Surah 3:56, 5:118

Jesus was the only Son of God – Mark 1:1

Claims Jesus was not the “Son of God” but rather a “prophet” – 9:30 – only 1 of 25 prophets listed in the Qur’an and 1 of 125,000 in the history of Islam.

Jesus said He was the Son of God – John 10:30-39, John 9:35-40, Matthew 16:13-17, Mark 14:61-64, Luke 22:70-71

Claims that Allah cannot have sons Surah 6:101

Holy Spirit, 3rd person in the Godhead. He will bear witness of Jesus – John 14:26; 15:26

Claims that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel – Surah 2:97; 16:102

Salvation by grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8,9

Salvation is by sincerity and works – Surah 3:135; 7-8-9; 21:47; 49:14; 66:8-9 also by dying for the cause of Allah – Hadith, Surah 3:157

The Devil is a fallen angel – Isaiah 14:12-15; Created by Jesus – Col 1:15,16

The Devil, Satan, is not a fallen angel, but a fallen Jinn (Genie) – 2:34; 7:12; 15:27; 55:15

Man is basically evil (fallen sinner) – Romans 3:23

Man is basically good – Typical cleric teaching (contradicts a buried passage in Surah 12:53 which agrees w/ the Bible)

Disciples were followers of Christ (Christians) – Acts 11:26

Disciples declare themselves Muslims – Surah 5:111

Worship on Sabbath – Exodus 20; Then later on Sunday – Rom 14:5-6; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2

Worship on Friday – Surah 62:9

Miracles, numerous are recorded

No Miracles recorded, except the claim the Qur’an is a miracle (c.f. Mormons and the Book of Mormon)

Written by 40+ authors over 1500 years – reads as one book

Written by 1 man over 23 years with multiple revisions following his death (c.f. Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon)

Christianity and the Afterlife

Christianity began with a Scriptural understanding of the afterlife: Mankind is fallen, sinful and at enmity with God. Therefore, when a person dies they are eternally separated from God who is the source of any and all things “good and enjoyable”. However, if that person during their lifetime, puts their faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of their sins, they do not go into separation from God (Hell) but rather, when they die they are instantly present with the Lord in a perfected state of joy, peace and gladness (Heaven).

Jesus said, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me, HAS eternal life and shall not come into judgement but has passed from death (separation) to life (heaven).” – John 5:24.

Roman Catholic Years of Aberration

By blues_brother - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=783833

During this time, the Roman Catholic Church began to drastically move away from the sufficiency of Scripture and instead began to teach that Church tradition and the word of the Pope were equal to or greater than the Word of God in authority. This view is still held by Roman Catholics today nearly a thousand years later.

This aberration would begin to crumble as Peter Waldo of the Waldensians, John Wycliffe and the Lollards, John Hus of the Unity of the Brethren and Martin Luther would begin to tirelessly call for a return to the Scriptures and would decry the abhorrent “traditions” which had replaced it and the Gospel.

Unfortunately, with the rise of Roman Catholicism during the low middle ages, this Biblical Gospel was exchanged for a false gospel whereby the Roman Catholic church began to preach that salvation is possible only by faith plus a requisite amount of works. They also introduced a new concept called “purgatory” whereby you go into a “mini Hell” to burn off those sins that you committed after being baptized at birth. Conveniently, this tradition of purgatory could be lessened by none other than the Pope himself if you were generous enough to give money into the Catholic collection bucket. This process was known as the “selling of indulgences”.

By Tartessos75 - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3377345

Reformation Return to Scriptural Afterlife

Holding to the inerrancy of the scriptures, Luther challenged the erroneous Roman Catholic salvific view of ‘faith + works’ and challenged the Roman Catholic dependence on “Church tradition”. He cited multiple scripture references to that communicate that the ‘just shall live by faith’ and not “faith plus works”.

  • Romans 1:17 – “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
  • Galatians 3:11 – “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”
  • Hebrews 10:38 – “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

The Biblical Gospel proclaims that God saw this rebellious condition of mankind, His creation, and saw that the only remedy for this condition was an eternal payment of death (separation from the God of life) which satisfied His just, righteous and holy nature. His love for His creation was so great, that he sent His Eternal Son to pay this eternal payment of death. Thereafter, all who would consciously put their faith in Him (Jesus) and his eternal death payment on the cross as payment for their own sins, would receive life everlasting, heaven after death and permanent relationship as sons and daughters to the Father here on earth.

Luther asserted that no fair amount of works could ‘earn’ favor with God Almighty and therefore, according to the Bible, one is saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9). This Biblical view of the Gospel which is ultimately a view of the afterlife, involves a conscious recognition of equality with all human beings: if one is imperfect and in need of perfection to spend eternity with God, then ALL are imperfect and in need of perfection to spend eternity with God. One is not better than another and therefore, of no need for a Savior. This view refers to sin by its original definition of ‘missing the mark’ and believes that all men have areas of ‘missing the mark’ in things they have done and have failed to do. These areas are referred to by the bible as ‘rebellion’ and as such, will have no place with a perfectly good and loving God. Not now, and especially not in eternity.

Those that receive Jesus, receive a new life now and an afterlife of heaven after they die. This view holds that those that refuse this costly gift that God gave, will simply continue in the condition of rebellion that all men exist in outside of Jesus payment on the cross. If the refuser remains in this state at the point of death, then that person is given their wish for eternity: separation from a God that gave Himself for their sins (Hell=separation from all this good).

What Happens When Catholics Die?

          • If I am a Roman Catholic, I would join the Catholic church based on grace and then somehow hope to accumulate enough ‘works’ to make it into a burning fire of a pre-heaven purgatory to burn off those extra sins I committed after baptism.
          • Or, maybe I could accumulate enough works and merit of the church and saints to escape the pre-heaven flames and swing right through to heaven.
          • Alternatively, I might just join the Catholic church and receive Jesus’ forgiveness but fail to do any good deeds because perhaps this all happened last minute or I was an invalid etc. Now, because I have no ‘works’ to accompany God’s grace, I am still condemned to separation from God.

A Final Analysis of the Catholic idea of Afterlife

All three views are the imaginations of men and have no validity in Scripture.

  • The dilemma or the Roman Catholic is, I can never know if I'm saved until the gate slams shut behind me which is a commonality between all man-made faith structures that involve heaven by works.
  • One can never know what will happen when they die until after they die.
  • Grace plus anything else, is not grace at all. How can we have 'unmerited favor' from God that is nullified by our supposed 'merits' of good deeds or failure of 'merit'?
  • This is the conclusion that Martin Luther came to and which sparked the Reformation.

What Happens When Christians Die?

If I am a Bible-believing Christian, I would have begun by recognising that I am no different from everyone else in the world in that I ‘miss the mark'(sin) in many ways and this sin is against an eternal God and carries an eternal penalty/wage.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” – Romans 1:18-19

  • If the Bible is correct then I cannot expect to receive heaven (presence with The God of Perfect Good) for eternity as I have sinned against Him (the Eternal One) every day of my life and each sin requires an eternal payment which I cannot provide.
  • If I then want to receive heaven after I die, then I must be willing to humble myself, confess my life of sin and rebellion toward him
  • Ask Jesus, God Almighty, and Son of God the Father Almighty to forgive me of my sins
    Ask for His mercy to apply his eternal payment for all mens sins to MY sins and to wash me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. – John 6:37

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12

  • This results in a perfect peace which surpasses understanding, knowing full well that I will receive heaven after I die and sonship from the Father here and now!

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:17

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” – Galatians 3:11

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” – Hebrews 10:38

References and recommended further reading

  1. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
  2. NKJV (Transliteration) Bible
  3. NIV (Paraphrase) Bible
  4. A.W. Tozer, “Knowledge of the Holy”
  5. Dennis McCallum, “An Approach to Christian Apologetics” , Xenos Church publication
  6. Van Gorden, Kurt “Why Christians Believe the Trinity”, Jude 3 Missions publication
  7. KJV (Poetic/transliteration) Bible “are there” is implied…not in Textus Receptus
  8. Craig, William Lane “A Reasonable Faith”
  9. Shelley, Bruce “Church History in Plain Language”
  10. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 2nd ed., 1983
  11. Cowan, Stephen B. Ed. “5 Views on Apologetics”, 2000
  12. Drurie, Mark Phd. article “appendix: Historical Evidence for Jesus (Yeshua)”
  13. Mcdowell, Josh “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”
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